Beyond the “Nerves” in an Interview: 4 ways to deal with it

Most people get nervous when they’re being interviewed for a job. They are peppered with questions that are meant to get to the core of their technical abilities, motivation, and fit. It’s a stressful situation. This is called “getting the nerves,” and it’s natural. Most likely you feel the same way about interviews.

anxious

But what if you are unable to get past the nerves because of anxiety? What can you do that will prevent you from losing the opportunity for the job? How can you stop your hands from shaking, your voice cracking, or even breaking into tears. In this post I’ll talk about what to do if it’s more than having the “nerves” in an interview.

Admit to Yourself that You’re Anxious

You’re not alone in feeling anxious. Knowing this should give you solace. Many job seekers have told me that they felt so “anxious” that they couldn’t think straight and answer the questions entirely. A few have even told me that had to remove themselves from the situation. While this is not “normal behavior,” it does happen.

Telling others, job counselors, a therapist, or even friends, could be helpful. Talking about how you feel can relieve some of your anxiety. Hearing from those you talk with that being anxious is understandable will be of comfort. Further, talking with someone who felt anxious in interviews, but landed a job regardless will give you a better sense of hope.

Know that the interview/s are barriers to getting a job, and once you’ve overcome the barrier, you will be able to do the work required to succeed. Remember that you want the job for which you’re applying; it is the end game. This will take preparation, though.

Before an Interview

I tell my clients that being prepared for an interview will give them confidence. This means thoroughly researching the position and company. If you’re really good, you’ll research the competition. People who interview without preparing—winging it—generally perform poorly in an interview.

While it’s important to research the position and company, you will benefit also from preparing mentally for the interview. This will include getting a good night’s sleep the day before, if you can. The day of the interview, you should take a leisurely walk and rehears answering the questions you predict will be asked. Or you might prefer answering the questions while looking into a mirror.

You might benefit from participating in a taped mock interview which will show you how you respond to questions, as well as your body language. I conducted a mock interview with someone who my colleague believed to be anxious. The client’s answers were fine; however she appeared tense and fidgeted with her fingers. My suggestion to her was that she keep her hands in her lap.

Admit to the interviewers that you’re anxious

Chances are that at least one of the interviewers—if it’s a group interview—suffers from anxiety and can relate to your condition. Perhaps one or more of the interviewers know others who suffer from anxiety. They should be empathetic if they know your condition.

You can simply say before the interview begins, “I’m a bit anxious at the moment. Interviews are stressful for me. I hope you understand.” Chances are that they’ll understand your feelings.

In fact, anxiety is more prevalent than you might suspect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19 percent of adults suffered from anxiety.

An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.

Past year prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).

An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

It is possible that you aren’t clinically anxious, but interviews and other social situation cause symptoms of anxiety. The most important thing is the message you deliver. Focus on expressing the value you will bring to the table. If you have to pause at times, that’s fine.

When your anxiety is debilitating

You may suffer from clinical anxiety, in which case you’re probably taking medication or attending therapy to keep it at bay. Healthy Info Daily describes the biological reasons for anxiety:

For a person with severe anxiety, their neurotransmitters are not working properly, and important messages can’t get through properly, which in turn causes the brain to work improperly, leading to anxiety, depression and other stress-induced disorders.

There are obvious signs of anxiety. Some symptoms of anxiety are excessive worrying, sleeplessness, panic attacks, fear/discomfort around crowds, and fear of speaking in public. Compound your anxiety with the pressures of an interview, it’s no wonder being interviewed is difficult. However, knowing you’re suffering from anxiety will explain the fear you experience in an interview.

In some cases, job candidates may need intervention or help from a vocational professional. This is in severe cases and usually for candidates who won’t be serving customers. Jobs that are individualistic would be best for them. If you fall under this category, it’s important that you apply for jobs appropriate for you.

Disclose your disability at some point during the interview, perhaps at the beginning. You have the ability to handle the responsibilities of the job; however you will require accommodations. It’s best to let employers know this before they hire you, as if you’re hired and then disclose your disability, your supervisor will most likely distrust you and might find reasons to let you go.


Interviews can cause mild to server anxiety for many people. If you happen to be one who gets anxious in an interview, reflect on why you are, ask for help from others, and if your anxiety is severe consider medication as a means to keep your anxiety at bay.

This post originally appeared on recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Eduardo

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